Though the terms were not disclosed, in February,
collectors Domenico and Eleanore De Sole announced a settlement
with Knoedler and its parent company 8-31 Holdings, Inc., the remaining defendants in the case. The De Soles had sued for $25 million over their purchase of a fake
from the prestigious Upper East Side gallery. The gallery reportedly settled a similar lawsuit brought by hedge fund manager Pierre LaGrange for just $6.4 million—despite the fact that he originally purchased his fake
from Knoedler for $17 million. Knoedler & Company shuttered in 2011 amid allegations it had sold some $60 million in forged works falsely attributed to major
including Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, and
. The paintings came to the gallery by way of art dealer Glafira Rosales, who claimed that a secretive Swiss collector had consigned them, when in fact she had commissioned the works from a struggling Chinese artist based in Queens named Pei-Shen Qian. Two other cases remain pending.
04 After being driven from Palmyra in March, militants fighting for the Islamic State retook the ancient Syrian city again in December.
The months of conflict between the Islamic State and forces loyal to Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad have likely caused serious intentional and collateral damage to Palmyra, which dates back to the Neolithic era and is renowned for its ruins and antiquities. ISIS first captured the city in May 2015, holding it until March
and destroying or looting priceless artifacts, monuments, and architecture, including grave damage to the Arch of Triumph, the 2,000-year-old Temple of Bel, and ancient tombs and towers dating as far back as A.D. 44. They also beheaded the city’s head of antiquities. Officials now fear the Islamic State will be more destructive in its new tenure in the city. This renewed threat to ancient sites comes after August
brought the first ever successful prosecution
of cultural heritage destruction as a war crime at the International Criminal Court—an outcome some hope will dissuade such attacks in the future.
05 The already soft market for Old Masters took a hit this year as news of a potentially widespread forgery ring gripped the art world.
Works by as many as 25 artists worth around $255 million are among those rumored
to have been forged as part of the scandal. The art world was tipped off when French police seized ’s Venus With a Veil
(1531) in March
of this year. The judge who ordered the seizure was acting on an anonymous tip that the painting, part of the Prince of Liechtenstein’s collection, was in fact, a fake. The painting allegedly originated from one Giuliano Ruffini. Ruffini, who some identify as a dealer—and who himself claims to be a collector—purchased at least six of the works including the Cranach; most originated from the collection of André Borie. Another of the initially-identified half dozen works is ’s Portrait of a Man
, through Ruffini claims that specific work did not originate with Borie. Sotheby’s had brokered a private sale of Hal’s painting in 2011 for some $10 million but in October refunded the purchase and deemed the work forged. Chemical analysis had turned up 20th century materials within the painting, purportedly from the 17th century, despite experts at the Louvre
and the Mauritshuis having previously claimed it to be the work of Hals’s hand.
06 The leak of the so-called Panama Papers cast a harsh light on a number of previously secret art arrangements.
The hoard of some 11.5 million documents culled from the Mossack Fonseca law firm in Panama detailed the off-shore, though not illegal, dealings of numerous individuals from across the globe. Many of those exposed as part of the April
leaks use art as part of their asset storage
schemes, mostly through shell companies. Among the most interesting revelations, the Papers uncovered that the landmark sale of the Victor and Sally Ganz collection in 1997 was not actually sold by the Ganzes themselves, but instead was a speedy flip from a shell company owned by British investor Joe Lewis. The documents also revealed that Russian billionaire Dmitry E. Rybolovlev used a Mossack Fonseca-created offshore entity to allegedly place millions in art out of the reach of his divorce proceedings beginning in 2008 (his lawyer has said the allegations are “misleading”); and that a $25 million
, which has been subject of a restitution dispute, is currently owned by a Panamanian entity controlled by the Nahmad family (they have been adamant that the painting is not Nazi loot).
07 The Museum of Modern Art announced plans to temporarily shutter its architecture and design galleries.
According to the museum’s April
announcement, the closures, which will include additional “medium-specific” galleries such as drawing and photography, were spurred by MoMA
’s renovation with architects
(DS+R). The existing architecture and design work will be interspersed throughout the museum’s collection, which some have noted as a strategy to remove design from its current vacuum
and place it within the context of the wider art world. The move also follows the trend seen toward multidisciplinary exhibitions across the art world. Still, the decision stirred debate, especially among the design community, who felt it represented a major institution turning it’s back on the discipline. In other museum-related news announced the same month, the Metropolitan Museum of Art
revealed that due to a projected $10 million deficit for 2016, it would undergo a two-year financial restructuring, including layoffs. By September, the museum laid off 1.5 percent of its 2,200-plus employees and announced that it will postpone the opening of a new wing.
08 Britain voted to leave the European Union, accentuating the uncertainty that gripped the art market in 2016.